Leanne has over 30 years communications and business experience, and has worked in Australia, the USA and the UK.
She founded ING in 1999 and has led the agency to a leadership position in understanding how the built environment drives economic health and prosperity. She advises and mentors chief executives and senior directors, and as a regular speaker and writer on communications issues, she champions communications as a tool to positively impact businesses.
Leanne has served as a charity trustee with the Bishopsgate Institute and Article 25. She has also been the Chair of Governors of two primary schools in Hackney and also been appointed by the hackney Learning Trust to serve on Interim Executive Boards for schools placed in special measures.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I am the founder and Managing Director of ING Media, a communications agency that specialises in the built environment. Whilst that sounds very niche, it is actually incredibly broad – we cover everything from architecture and design to property development and investment, construction, public policy and infrastructure.
I was born in Australia but moved to London in the mid 90’s and set up ING in 1999. The agency has grown to almost 40 people and apart from looking after our clients, the main part of my job is ‘talent management’. Making sure that our exceptional people are looked after and also scouting for new talent.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I am not sure that I planned my career but I am a ‘planner’. I didn’t go to university and started working when I was 17. I was always on the lookout for opportunities and I was never fearful of taking the next step. I guess I had nothing to lose. The real ‘planning’ started to come into play as my desire to have a family started to crystalize in my mind. I wanted to maintain control over my career while also having a family. That played a big part in my decision to set up my own business. I thought that it would give me more time to look after my family. The reality is that you can never shut off from your own business – so the dream of having ‘free time’ never really eventuated.
Probably from my mid-thirrties, I started to look at 5 year plans – these were more in my mind than in any formal sense. ‘Dreams, schemes and themes’.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Of course. I think life is just a series of challenges. But as I have gotten older my philosophy is that life is a constant series of challenges and that is part of the journey. I see them as normal rather than unusual.
When I first started out I didn’t have an established network in London so I had to build that from scratch. I have managed the business through two major economic downturns and now a pandemic. Managing to have children and run a business has probably been the biggest challenge.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
From a business perspective, it is definitely ING. The agency has a great reputation and we have an amazingly smart and talented team. I always have to pinch myself at what we have all created. Many people who have worked at ING have gone on to have great success elsewhere and they remain friends. I am so proud that we contributed to their careers so positively.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
That’s easy. I have a great capacity for rejection. When you are in the agency world, there is a ‘hire and fire’ culture with clients. You have to pitch for work and sometimes you lose. I try to learn from each experience but move on quickly. There is always another day and another opportunity.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
Mentoring is vital and I don’t see it as a ‘stand-alone’ activity. Whilst I have formally mentored a number of people and had a ‘coach’ myself, I feel that people are looking for guidance constantly. The best way to do that is by always staying interested in people and being willing to share experiences and talk. People really want to understand how to overcome challenges and know the detail and the nuance of how to solve a problem. Sometimes it is just having a chance to chat to someone who is willing to listen.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
After 30 years of being incredibly frustrated by the slow pace of change, I am very excited about what has happened in the last 5 years. Every company we work with has gender equality as a priority/. That doesn’t mean that they have all achieved it but they are all proactively working towards it. However, the biggest barrier for most women is affordable and high quality child care. This should be a priority for all Governments. That will give women everywhere real choice.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
I also had this idea that ‘30’ was the time when you defined success. Of course, that is not the case and success comes in many forms and not in conventional ways. I would tell myself to pace myself and to trust that I will be able to withstand all the professional and personal knocks along the way. Life is not going to be easy but it will be rewarding.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
The main challenge at the moment is to manage the business through the Covid pandemic and to help tackle the lack of diversity in our sector. I feel very optimistic about that.
For me personally, the most important challenge is to keep learning and broadening my perspective.
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